Opinion

The Price of Education in Northern Nigeria versus Cost of Ignorance

Tension in Kaduna as 16 Almajiris repatriated from Kano, test positive for Coronavirus

 

By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere

 

First it was at Chibok, Bornu state. Two hundred and seventy six (276) school girls were abducted to make a political point to the government of the day in 2014. Three years later another set of One hundred and fifteen (115) young school girls were kidnapped from Government Girls Technical School Dapchi in Yobe State. If the first set of abduction was a coincidence this new one appeared to read like a well written script which goes further to confirm what most Nigerians already suspect-that there was some level of collusion in the saga of successful abduction, transportation  and return of these number of human beings without any confrontation with the state security forces. It equally establishes the fact that these girls have suddenly become mere pawns in the game of political intrigues and subterfuge.

The impression the political gladiators are sending out is that the lives of these tender girls do not really matter. What is more? The girls are the children of the talakwas, the fabled politically down trodden of society. They do not hold any stake in the affairs of the state given the high level of ignorance and marginalization which they have suffered as serfs under prolonged and sustained culture of fiefdom.

The present tormentor, Boko Haram (BH) started initially with a campaign to liberate the people from oppression occasioned by the abuse and oppressive tendenciesof the ruling elite in Nigeria. These elite had abused the privileges western education accorded to them by creating a society consciously or unconsciously, where the level of poverty and disease was only matched by the festering ignorance of the masses. Boko Haram identified western education and civilization as the tool of the oppressor, and as such was useless or utterly forbidden, another word for haram. BokoHaram tried to carve out a Caliphate within north eastern Nigeria where sharia law and Islam will be the exclusive practice.  It therefore launched out to fight the perceived injustice within the northern society. They gained immediate acceptance amongst the rural and forgotten folks in the areas around Maiduguri town in Bornu State.

By a dramatic turn of events, Boko Haram founder-Yusuf Mohammed was murdered in July 2009 under police custody by persons believed to be working for the government of the day. With the death of the vision bearer, it became apparent that the vision of BH was hijacked by other actors who were to use the organization for other ends. These new partners provided the funding and logistics necessary to wage a war against the state. Boko Haram metamorphosed to become a fighting arm of some politically isolated elements in Bornu State and such places who engaged the disgruntled elements within BH as a resistance force to the government at the center.

Boko Haram claimed to be fighting for the enthronement of justice and the liberation of the oppressed people of the north. In trying to curb injustice they have further exacerbated the class struggle in that society. The level of deaths, sufferings and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is unprecedented in the history of the nation.

In the days of President Goodluck E. Jonathan (GEJ) it was clearly established that there were at least three (3) variants of Boko Haram- the religious BH, the political BH and the economic BH.

Now that Boko Haram is degraded and technically defeated, it appears that the three groups have metamorphosed into one. Though the state security operatives claim that BH is factionalized, the modus operandi appears not to have changed dramatically. They have remained vicious, violent and sworn enemies of the state. They have not hidden their agenda to further embarrass the government like they did recently in Dapchi by abducting the young schoolgirls.

Boko Haram has maintained its slogan that western education is forbidden, but we do not know what else drives them besides this. Whether western, eastern or Middle Eastern education, nations can only move forward as they embrace education for national development. If BH is advocating for an Arabic based curriculum for northern Nigeria, they have not been able to articulate their ideological view point in a presentable manner.

Education is universally desirable and necessary for societal development. However, BH is yet to tell the world those elements of western education they disagree with. The fundamentals of any learning process include languages, mathematics, science, arts, sociology, philosophy, religion etc. to make a blanket statement that western education is haram is rather too simplistic and misleading.

It is worrisome that northern Nigeria can boast of the highest number of out-of-school minors in Nigeria. Many of these children can be seen on the street as alimajeri or vagrant, street beggars under some type of Islamic tutelage. It remains a puzzle why and how the political elite of northern Nigeria still manage to ensure that school based learning has little penetration in their region.  Even with its huge human population, the north has remained at the bottom rung when it comes to school enrollment and also in regional examinations like WAEC, NECO and JAMB.

It is not surprising that the youths of that region are bitter, angry and despondent. They presently will risk anything to ensure that there is instability in that part of the country. The frustration in these youths is taking its toll on the level of drug and substance abuse prevalent in the north. This has culminated into other social vices happening in that region. The array of disillusioned young men are easy recruits to all types of ideological renegades.

One is not surprised that BH insurgency will not just go away despite government claim to the contrary. However, as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) tinkers with the idea of offering amnesty to repentant Boko Haram members, let the government ensure that one of the conditions that will qualify a recipient is the willingness to be trained in skill acquisition programs.

If the idea of amnesty is simply to ‘share money’ at the end of the month to indolent young persons, then the government should remember the old adage “an idle mind is the devils workshop”.

 

Otuchikere, a geologist and Senior member of the Institute of Public Diplomacy and Management (IPDM) wrote from Calabar, Cross River State.

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